The challenging business of motivating sales teams to reach and surpass targeted goals is going digital through gamification strategies. With Gartner Inc. just releasing a book on the subject and more companies emerging to offer the service to sales offices, gamification is starting to show signs of going mainstream. For ISOs, gamification may prove to be the leaderboard replacement that motivates not just the top performers, but also entire sales teams to meet and exceed expectations.
Gamification is defined as the process of using online game mechanics to encourage and reward competition. News coming from this software-as-a-service (SaaS) sector has been growing. In October 2013, gamification provider Badgeville said its third quarter 2013 revenue had doubled from the same time the previous year, with partnerships with IBM and Oracle adding to the bounty.
Another provider, BunchBall, said on May 21, 2014, that it is in the process of patenting its SaaS offering. Bunchball founder and Chief Executive Officer Rajat Paharia is said to have founded the industry when he filed a patent application for the Nitro gamification platform in 2007.
And at the Gartner Enterprise Architecture Summit held in London on May 21 and 22, 2014, Gartner spotlighted Gamify – How Gamification Motivates People to do Extraordinary Things, authored by Gartner Research Vice President Brian Burke. In the book, Burke wrote, "Gamification is about rethinking motivation in a world where we are more often connected digitally than physically. It is about building motivation into a digitally connected world. And we are just getting started on this journey."
According to Adam Hollander, founder and CEO of gamification firm FantasySalesTeam, its platform succeeds where traditional sales contests fail. He said dangling prizes for sales goals and fomenting competition by posting results on chalkboards fail for three main reasons.
First, such contests are always won by the few sales superstars in the office, who always outperform their competitors. Second, when the average sellers realize half way through the contest that they have no chance of winning prizes, they lose their motivation to compete. Third, traditional sales contests are operational nightmares, with managers having to track and communicate sales data to keep the contests going.
Hollander stated that FantasySalesTeam overcomes these hurdles by encouraging entire sales teams to achieve and offering the service in the cloud, where big data analytics are generated automatically, and managers can gauge sales performances using a variety of customizable metrics that can then be easily circulated via dashboards to the entire office.
Hollander said FantasySalesTeam is inspired by fantasy sports leagues, where participants choose professional athletes in, say, football or baseball leagues, and use those players' current statistics to gain points. For example, in a fantasy football league, a participant with a certain quarterback on his or her team will gain points based on the number of passes the quarterback completes and the number of touchdowns the quarterback makes.
FantasySalesTeam uses the same approach; however, members of sales teams are both players and managers of their own teams. The teams, made up of reps in the same office, earn points based on the sales performances of their players. Every week, sales reps evaluate the sales results of the players on their teams and add or remove players accordingly.
"What this does is it creates a brand new type of culture within your sales environment, because now the reps aren't just focused on their own behavior and their own points and their own deals," Hollander said. "What it does is it makes them focus on everyone else."
FantasySalesTeam offers game templates that mimic different types of games and team configurations, such as football, baseball, basketball, soccer, and even Formula One racing. For example, in a baseball scenario, since there are nine players playing different positions on a diamond, each team within the sales environment has nine players at any given time, and those players play certain positions based on their skill sets.
"It allows you to use the different tiers of your sales organization or the different types of reps you might have and their different roles and you can spread them out on the field, and that creates a level playing field for everybody," Hollander said, since everyone is earning points both individually and within a team environment.
Because of the complexity of sales, managers boil down traditional contests to one simple metric, such as number of deals closed. But Hollander said such contests favor top performers, to the detriment of the entire office. With gamification, points can be earned from a variety of metrics, such as calls made, opportunities created and product upgrades sold, which rewards reps even if they don't excel in every category.
An additional advantage of gamification is in operational efficiency. "You get a game that is more fun, more motivational, that is going to keep more people engaged for longer," Hollander said. "And it is going to get you a better sales result, and it's going to be a heck of a lot easier for you to manage on the back end, which frees up operational time for you to do other things."
Hollander noted that the offices using FantasySalesTeam dream up prizes as creative as the games themselves. One satellite office, playing teams from other satellite offices, won the prize of getting to design the T-shirt that coworkers from the losing offices had to wear at the company picnic.
But Hollander said the best prize so far was a classic from high school graduation, only substituting the company CEO for the high school principal. "The winner of their game got to pie their CEO in the face at their company picnic," he said. "They said it was the best sales contest they ever ran."
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